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Low mood, depression and MS

Capture.JPGThis Mental Health Awareness week the MS-UK Counselling team discuss how people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can experience low mood and depression and what you can do about it

The mental health charity, MIND estimate that 1 in 4 people living in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

As counsellors at MS-UK, we are often asked what the difference is between low mood and depression.

Symptoms of low mood

  • Worry
  • Feeling anxious or a sense of panic
  • Sadness
  • Tiredness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Low self-esteem

When does low mood turn into depression though?

The most important sign to recognise is if we notice that our low mood is starting to interfere drastically in our daily life and is lasting longer than a couple of weeks. This may be a sign of depression.

Depression

How we might feel and think

  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Feeling tired, lethargic or lacking in energy
  • No self-esteem or confidence
  • Isolated and unable to relate to other people
  • Feeling guilt and worthlessness
  • Being critical towards yourself
  • Feeling empty or numb
  • Have little please in life or have stopped enjoying the things you used to enjoy
  • Frequent restlessness, irritability or agitation
  • Have a sense of unreality
  • Sense of hopelessness and  despairing
  • Feelingly down, upset or tearful
  • Feeling suicidal

When we feel depressed we may behave in certain ways too.

How we might behave/physical bodily responses

  • Feeling tired all of the time, so not doing as much in our daily life
  • Loss of appetite which leads to weight loss or comfort eating leading to weight gain
  • Physical aches and pains that don’t correlate to physical activity
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Avoiding social activities or events that you would usually enjoy
  • Neglecting ourselves: not washing frequently for example
  • Lack of concentration. For example, reading the newspaper or watching TV
  • Changes in sleeping patterns: sleeping more than usual/waking up a lot
  • Insomnia
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Difficulty speaking or thinking clearly
  • Smoking more, drinking more alcohol than usual or using drugs more than usual
  • Self-harming or suicidal behaviour

What causes depression?

There is much debate around this topic but there are three main perspectives around the causes of depression:

  1. Depression links to certain ways of unhelpful  thinking
  2. Depression is a result of negative life experiences
  3. Depression is caused by neuro-chemical or hormonal imbalances

Counsellors recognise that there is usually a combination of these three factors that link to why somebody may be depressed.  

MS and Depression

Depression can affect anybody. Having an MS diagnosis does not mean you will automatically become depressed.

However, around half of all MSers will experience depression at some point in their life. This is three times higher than the general population. This higher rate could be due to MS damaging nerves in the brain that affect mood but also because the person is living with a complex disease.

What can also be confusing is that some symptoms of depression are also symptoms of MS. This can be incredibly confusing for MSers as it can be difficult to ascertain what is causing them. For example, fatigue may be an MS symptom or it may be a symptom of depression. Or it could be both.

I think I might be depressed

If you think you may be depressed. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Below are a few suggestions that you may find helpful:

  • Talk to somebody you trust about how you’re feeling
  • Book an appointment with your GP
  • Contact the MS-UK Counselling service. This service is confidential and is open to people living with multiple sclerosis (MS), and is the only service of its kind available in the UK

MS-UK Counselling is here for anybody living with MS and offers space for you to explore your thoughts and feelings in a professional, supportive, and non-judgemental therapeutic space. You can register your interest for this service at www.ms-uk.org/counselling